ECO: the latest Presbyterian denomination
January 23, 2012
[If you care to respond to this post, please read the whole thing.]
As someone considering ordination in the PCUSA, the latest developments in Orlando will likely have direct consequences for how (if) I pursue ordination in the PCUSA. Things just got complicated, yes, even more complicated. Similar to what Anglican groups have been doing for the last ten years (e.g., the ACNA), evangelicals within the mainline denomination have adopted a multi-tier polity for a new denomination: the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO). In true Presbyterian fashion, they already have the pension plans set out! There will be three levels of membership:
affiliate as a “ministry association,” which involves no change in PCUSA membership status and is apparently open to non-PCUSA churches pursue “union membership,” which involves a joint union with the PCUSA and ECO join ECO as a “full member,” which involves leaving the PCUSA
Update: They have decided on two levels of membership: (1) Fellowship of Presbyterians and (2) ECO. As a member of the Fellowship, you can still remain in the PCUSA. As a member of ECO, you have joined the new denomination and left the PCUSA. So, the Fellowship will be a means for networking evangelicals within the PCUSA and with ECO members.
I’m really curious to see how the PCUSA responds. The Fellowship of Presbyterians (the body initiating all of this) is not to be taken lightly. 500 churches were represented in Orlando, with many more in sympathy, and these are some of the strongest churches in the PCUSA, such as First Presbyterian of Orlando (David Swanson) and Menlo Park Presbyterian (John Ortberg), plus my own Westminster Presbyterian of Charlotte. The Huffington Post, not surprisingly, has reduced everything to gay marriage and homophobia, in an ungracious and pathetic representation of Fellowship motives: “Cowardly Lions.” Don Sweeting, the president of RTS-Orlando and an EPC minister, has a far more helpful analysis of the Fellowship and ECO. As my pastor has emphasized over and over, there is no denying that the 10A amendment was a decisive moment for the networking and organizing of evangelicals in the PCUSA, but the amendment was simply a manifestation of something far more disconcerting: the nearly complete disregard for biblical authority in underwriting the amendment. To their credit, many scholars and leaders in the revisionist camp are not even claiming biblical warrant, instead focusing on supposed ambiguities in the text, contextual differences between the ANE and today, and the relative newness of homosexual monogamy and the need to “baptize” homosexual relationships with Christian marriage. To put it another way, would the apostles accept homosexual marriage? No, but that’s neither here nor there, according to the GLBT lobby. That’s where evangelicals fear to tread. I have lots of questions, and few certainties, about homosexuality, but I have to remain captive to the canonical norms, not the fallibility of my experience or wisdom, which is otherwise highly sympathetic and attracted to much that is written in favor of homosexual relationships…Sarah Coakley and Rowan Williams come to mind.